Arunkumar Bhatt

29 companies taking part in business meeting in Mumbai

Meet kept off political question mark on Indo-U.S. deal

Talks exploratory; to go on wider scale

MUMBAI: Indian and French nuclear industries have begun their two-day business meet to explore ways of building nuclear power plants in India if opportunities arise out of the sealing of the India-U.S. nuclear deal and the resultant NSG exemption and India-specific safeguard agreement with the International Atomic Energy Agency.

Over 70 French delegates representing 29 companies in the nuclear sector and 300 Indian delegates from the atomic energy establishments and private sector companies that supply equipment for nuclear power plants are attending the meet.

The meet kept off the political question mark on the Indo-U.S. deal and both Indian and French officials, including AEC Chairman, Anil Kakodkar and French Ambassador Jerome Bonnafont projected the industry-to-industry interaction as taking place in anticipation of Indo-French inter-governmental cooperation agreement aimed at ‘restarting nuclear cooperation.’ But Dr. Kakodkar stressed the Indian strategic concerns were not negotiable.

Mr. Bonnafont said the then French President, Jacques Chirac, proposed bilateral cooperation in nuclear power production during his visit to India in 1998. This willingness was reaffirmed when Prime Minister Manmohan Singh visited France in 2005 and the French President came to India last year.

“They agreed on the principles of such cooperation and France is eager to conclude this agreement as soon as possible and stands ready to start again wide scale nuclear cooperation with India,” he said.

The Ambassador stressed that “such exploratory talks will allow all of us to move forward, once the relevant international agreements are in place and the appropriate NSG exemption is granted to India.”

Dr. Kakodkar said: “We have insisted and would continue to insist that such cooperation cannot be allowed to hinder our strategic programme as well as our three-stage [nuclear power] programme. We have also insisted on our requirement to reprocess and recycle the spent fuel so that we not only have the additionality in the near term, but also establish an order of magnitude larger power generation capacity along with its energy supply, for the future.”

Dr. Kakodkar said the cooperation between India and France in the field of atomic energy was quite old and was the first bilateral cooperation that India had with any country. He said that it had been meaningful and covered research and development, fast breeder reactors, safety and now fusion energy.

NPCIL chairman and managing director S.K. Jain gave an overview of the nuclear power industry in India, its sound industrial and financial base.